Are You Being Thorough In Your Salary Negotiations? The Complete Insider’s Checklist.

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The job search process can be tough and fairly one-sided. However, there is one small window when the candidate has a high amount of leverage, and that is the time between receiving an official offer and accepting it.

Helping clients navigate a salary negotiation is one of my favorite coaching activities. As a first step, I ask several specific questions to understand all of the possible levers available to be able to negotiate the best compensation package, while also preserving the relationship with the new employer.

The goal is always for both parties – the selected candidate and the hiring manager – to leave the negotiation discussion feeling positive about the final decision and excited about embarking on the new partnership. If you follow my career content you’ll note several articles, blogs, videos and tips around the negotiating process, including step-by-step guides, why you should negotiate, what to say and how to get ready.

While the technical steps remain similar for most compensation negotiations, there are many factors that can impact how much leverage you actually have, such as:

Personal Urgency

  • Do I currently have a sufficient source of income?
  • Do I have a walk away number?
  • How is the market/industry performing in my area of expertise?
  • Do I have another offer in hand?
  • Am I being contacted for interviews or by recruiters regularly?
  • Am I currently at risk of a layoff or in a toxic environment I need to exit quickly?
  • Is it a buyer’s or seller’s employment market?

Company Urgency

  • Is this a time-sensitive hire (e.g., impending deadline, busy season, etc.)?
  • Did the department just lose one or more people (if yes, best to find out why)?
  • Is there a strong #2 candidate in the running?
  • Is this a newly created role (these tend to be less urgent)?
  • Is someone adequately covering the role currently?
  • How critical is the project/position to the company’s success?
  • Are there other company situations that are a greater priority than hiring right now?

Expense to Hire

  • Did I get introduced by a headhunter (which may come with a hefty finder’s fee for the company)?
  • Is relocation or other up front costs involved?
  • Will I need a lot of training/upskilling to get up to speed?
  • Is there a non-compete or other risk to the employer to consider?

Professional Value

  • Am I a highly competitive candidate?
  • Does the role require a unique or unusual skillset that I possess?
  • Do I bring added abilities that will save/earn money for the company?
  • Do they value my degree/certification/license or is it a “nice-to-have”?
  • Did I get introduced through a strong referral?
  • What is my learning curve?


  • How agile is the company?
  • Are there creative options (e.g., mid-year salary review, pet daycare)?
  • Is the total compensation coming from different buckets (e.g., it may be easier to obtain dollars from other income streams like tuition reimbursement)?
  • Are the company perks offered to all employees valuable to me (e.g., childcare, onsite concierge, paid parking, etc.)?


  • Am I negotiating with the best person (the hiring manger)?
  • Am I assuming positive intent in the discussion?
  • Am I considering both the relationship and the task?
  • Have I done my research and preparation to ensure I know my levers and there aren’t unnecessary back and forth discussions?

Personal Risks

  • Is this a start-up? What stage? Do I trust the founders?
  • What part of compensation is variable vs. guaranteed?
  • Is there a lot of change occurring within the organization currently?
  • What risks are the company facing that I may be taking on indirectly?


  • Am I considering the intangible benefits (e.g., new network, unique experience, strong brand, etc.)?
  • What is my range between satisfied and ecstatic?
  • Do I have a list of perks that would suffice if I can’t get base salary to where I’d like?
  • Am I considering how the extras (e.g., relocation, sign-on bonus, etc.) are taxed?

These questions are targeted to external negotiations, however, some may apply if you’re seeking an internal raise (see here for more on internal negotiations).

Not all these points will apply to everyone or every company and some may carry more weight depending on your individual circumstances. Others may only be a factor in conjunction with the bigger picture and/or to the extent they actually matter to one of the parties.

However, cutting corners on the negotiation process can cost you a lot of money, not just in the short-term, but in the years to come since future bonuses, raises and other internal compensation will likely be based on where you start. So, invest in yourself and don’t take the conversation lightly, or worse, skip it altogether.

When it comes to salary negotiations:

  1. Always sleep on it.
  2. Prepare thoroughly.
  3. Find the balance between the outcome and the relationship.

Happy hunting!

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